Uruguay has many more cows than people. If you are one of the 3.4 million Uruguayans, at least a few of the 12 million head of cattle are always within sight—at least, once you head out of Montevideo toward the vineyards. And, if winemaker lunches are any barometer, you are proud of Uruguay’s beef.
So, I was bemused when I landed at Jacinto, back in Montevideo, to meet a tannat grower from the country’s northern border with Brazil. Francisco Carrau of Cerro Chapeu had asked Lucia Soria, the chef at Jacinto, to create a plant-forward lunch to accompany his wines. While I can think of any number of reasons not to eat beef—the impact of cattle and their methane on the changing climate being, perhaps, the first that comes to mind—I choose not to eat much meat for my own personal health. Even so, I had never thought of placing tannat with anything but a steak.
By the end of lunch, my stomach was happy, and my mind was blown. Sure, the wines were good. But who was this woman with energy as beautiful as her food was fresh and delicious? I wanted to know more about Lucia Soria, so I bought her cookbook and started to think about the kinds of tannat she loves and the kind of food it enhances.
On a lark, I tossed out an idea to my host, Martina Litta of INAVI, the government body that oversees wine production in Uruguay. Wouldn’t it be great to bring Lucia to prepare lunch for a group of sommeliers in New York—to shift their perspective on tannat?
Two months later, Lucia was at her friend’s restaurant and pottery studio in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ostudio, presenting her dishes with a selection of tannats from our recommendations, bringing the Uruguay we both love to NYC. Our Creative Director, Nick Mrozowksi, arranged a photo shoot back in Montevideo, to capture Lucia preparing her tannat-friendly recipes and present them in this issue.
It’s one of several stories that might shift your perspective on wines you thought you knew—like zinfandel. If the first things that come to mind are massive old-vine reds, or off-dry whites, or even elegant, age-worthy claret styles from this Bear-Flag red, Patrick J. Comiskey has found an alternative universe of zins—from producers exploring the variety off any spectrum that may once have defined it.
Or xinómavro, often considered the Greek Barolo for its earthy, tannic reds from Náoussa. Susannah Smith ventured to Siátista and Velvendós, high into the mountains of western Macedonia, to find brighter, lighter styles you might associate more closely with nebbiolo from Alto Piemonte.
For something new on the spirits front, Alissa Bica explored Empire Rye, and how a group of craft distillers have coalesced around a once-thriving agricultural tradition in New York State. Will Empire Rye soon occupy the same head-space as Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey? Grab a rocks glass and decide for yourself.
For a host of alternative perspectives, taste through some of our Value All-Stars, hitting that sweet spot of affordable and delicious, many of them offering the fascinating regional or site distinctions that drive the high-end market for wine. They stand ready to shake up your expectations and offer you a breath of fresh air this summer.
This story appears in the print issue of Summer 2023.
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